December 19, 2005
STATE EMPLOYEES VOLUNTEERING TO HELP IN HURRICANE RECOVERY EFFORTS
By: John Moran, Associate Analyst
You asked a number of questions related to state employees volunteering to help out in the Gulf Coast hurricane recovery efforts including: (1) how many have volunteered, (2) what state benefits will the volunteers receive for the leave, (3) what authority does an employee's supervisor have in this situation, and (4) how does the state select the volunteers?
Pursuant to state law, any state employee who wishes to volunteer for American Red Cross disaster relief efforts and (1) is a certified Red Cross disaster service volunteer, (2) has received authorization from his supervisor, and (3) is notified and deployed by the Red Cross for disaster service is entitled to paid leave of up to 14 calendar days. The employee will not be docked for vacation, sick leave, or earned overtime accumulation during the leave (CGS § 5-249 (b)).
As of November 21, 2005, the Red Cross had deployed 82 state employee volunteers for hurricane recovery, according to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). The Red Cross does not track volunteers by their place of employment.
The Charter Oak Chapter (Greater Hartford area) of the American Red Cross says that 404 state employees successfully completed the chapter's one-day Red Cross disaster services training and are eligible to be deployed, contingent on their agency's permission. The chapter held four trainings especially for state employees. But Jennifer Winslow, disaster services human resources administrator, said other state employees may have received training from another Red Cross chapter (there are 13 in the state) or signed up for one of the regularly scheduled trainings, so the pool of deployment-eligible volunteers is probably well over 404.
On September 8, 2005, the DAS and the Office of Policy and Management issued a joint memorandum to agency heads and personnel staff outlining the procedures for voluntary disaster relief leave (see Attachment A or click on DAS Memorandum No. 2005-01). The aim of the memorandum is to make sure “agency operational needs are met while allowing State of Connecticut employees to do their part to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”
The memo includes the following guidelines.
1. An employee interested in volunteering must ask his supervisor in writing for permission to attend a Red Cross disaster services training.
2. After receiving the request, the supervisor must consider the agency's operational needs and staff coverage and recommend either approval or denial of the request.
3. The supervisor then forwards the request to the agency's human resources office, which consults with the supervisor and then informs the employee of the final decision. The memo states that “employees in certain essential positions will be prevented from taking part in volunteer efforts.”
4. Approved requests are forwarded to the state Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, which coordinates the training with the Red Cross.
5. The employee uses personal, vacation, or compensatory time for the one-day training (this will be reimbursed to the employee after he finishes the volunteer service).
6. Upon completion of the training, the employee provides his agency's human resources office with a copy of his Red Cross training certification.
The Red Cross initiates the deployment of any volunteers for disaster services. When an employee is notified by the Red Cross of a volunteer assignment, the employee must notify his supervisor of the assignment dates. The supervisor notifies human resources, which arranges for the employee to be paid for his normal workweek hours.
An employee can volunteer for no more than 14 calendar days. When he returns to work he must provide a copy of his proof of Red Cross voluntary service, which will be placed in his personnel file.